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Pilot treatment in Boat Harbour to begin in August

This section of land next to the current Boat Harbour Treatment Facility has been cleared in preparation for the construction of infrastructure needed to conduct pilot testing for the remediation project.
This section of land next to the current Boat Harbour Treatment Facility has been cleared in preparation for the construction of infrastructure needed to conduct pilot testing for the remediation project. - Adam MacInnis

When a pilot project remediation of a section of Boat Harbour begins later this year, people in Nova Scotia will be able to keep a close eye on the progress thanks to a web cam that will be installed.

Ken Swain, project lead for the remediation, said the goal is to have the work livestreamed on a webpage about the project www.novascotia.ca/boatharbour.

Swain along with others with the remediation effort met with approximately 50 people who came out to a community meeting in Pictou Landing Tuesday evening to discuss the pilot scale work.

A temporary barrier was constructed in 2017 to isolate a cove in Boat Harbour which is going to be used for the pilot. The next step involves the construction of infrastructure needed to carry out the pilot testing. This will include a treatment laydown pad and dredging work compound. Land has already been cleared near the existing Boat Harbour Treatment Facility and construction of the pad is expected to be completed in July.

According to documents posted on the project website, the treatment pad will include the construction of a gated access area, a containment area, lined sludge dewatering pad and supporting pipelines. A chain-link fence will also be installed to separate the area from the operational effluent treatment plant.

In August the actual pilot testing will begin and is expected to last until December 2018 or January 2019, Swain said. The timeline will allow them to conduct their tests during summer, fall and winter conditions, so they’ll have a true idea of what to expect when full remediation begins in 2020, he said.

During the pilot testing, Swain said they will remove sludge out of the cove and test ways to treat it and remove contaminants in the most efficient way.

One option they’re testing is using geo tubes which he said are like big cloth bags which you pump the sludge into and it allows filtered water to escape thereby reducing the volume of contaminated material that needs to be stored in containment.

“We think we’ll reduce the volumes by about 50 per cent,” Swain said.

Another option they’ll test involves heating the material to about 300 Celsius to dry it out. This could potentially allow for greater reduction in the volume of the waste.

One aspect they’ll be closely monitoring during the test stage is whether there are any problems with odour.

So far Swain said there’s been little smell from exposed sediment, but they want to hire an independent contractor to monitor the air while the pilot work is done. They’ll be lowering the overall level of water in Boat Harbour by a third metre to a half metre during their testing which will expose some of the shoreline that’s currently underwater and contains dead plant material, which has the potential to cause some odour.

On a positive note, testing had indicated that contaminants have not spread into groundwater of land around Boat Harbour or past the dam that was built to contain the water in Boat Harbour.

Before work begins in 2020, the project will need to pass a Class 2 environmental assessment.

“That’s a longer assessment, but we’re prepared for it,” Swain said.

He doesn’t anticipate any problem meeting their 2020 start date.

Northern Pulp currently leases the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility from the province, but has been told it will be closed by January 2020.

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